“The test of a preacher is that his congregation goes away saying, not, ‘What a lovely sermon!’ but ‘I will do something.’” — Billy Graham
Confession time: there have been times in my preaching past when I was more concerned with crafting a lovely sermon than I was about inspiring people to action. I imagine I am not alone among pastors.
The temptation is always there. In searching for a story or movie clip, is it to enhance the loveliness of the message or to prompt a response by the listener? Am I interested in finding the right turn of a phrase in order to impress my audience or to challenge them?
Good marketing include what is known as a “call to action.” It answer the “so what?” question. So what am I supposed to do about what I’ve just seen or heard? A call to action explains the next step. It challenges, prompts, and inspires. A call to action is designed for one purpose: to move people to action.
For preaching, is our goal to inform or transform? Or is it a mix of both? In reality, we must be informative (our messages need substance) in order to be transformative. But the end goal is not simply to pass along knowledge … or to receive a “nice message, pastor” greeting at the back door.
Our aim must always be transformation. I want people who hear my messages to leave with a clear sense of what they can and should do. If that action step isn’t accepted, I at least want them to leave a little bit troubled. Troubled in the sense that they are still wrestling with what they should do.
May the days of lovely sermons be behind us.